There is no such thing as a typical daily routine for breast cancer survivor, advocate and activist Lorraine Pace. For example, instead of going to the salon for a haircut, she was there handing out brochures about the awful disease. Rather than enjoy the beach and boardwalk, her recent visit to Fire Island was about collecting donated prizes for an upcoming breast cancer charity event.
"Every day revolves around breast cancer," she said.
From planning a lawn party cancer charity event to receiving phone calls from women diagnosed with the illness, Pace, the founder and co-president of Breast Cancer Help, inc., serves as a live campaign for breast cancer awareness. Perhaps her biggest efforts came when she was diagnosed with the disease herself.
In 1992, while receiving radiation treatments and chemotherapy, she spearheaded a monumental mapping research movement where she helped pinpoint where all the women who have breast cancer on Long Island live. Her efforts eventually led an online database where studies were performed of possible environmental causes of breast cancer incidences on Long Island.
Pace's concerns for women with breast cancer on Long Island is the disease's link to the environment, where heavy metals like mercury and cyanide seem to be very present with harmful affects. Her testimonies have led to numerous grants and donations from local and state politicians. Just two years ago, Breast Cancer Help, Inc. was awarded a $500,000 grant from New York State Senators Owen Johnson and Caesar Trunzo for a digital mammography system for Southside Hospital to provide state of the art diagnosis technology.
"I don't know any other community where it is as prevalent," Pace said. "I give from the goodness of my heart because of the horrors I went through. When you help other people you wind up helping yourself."
Not only does Pace mean that in a figurative sense, but when she went for a mammogram using a similar machine she helped donate to Stony Brook University Medical Center, it was able to detect that her breast cancer had returned. She was able to cure it once, and fortunately this time, she caught the cancer early enough so that she was able to avoid chemo and have the tumor surgically removed.
"You never know whose life you're going to save and chances are it could be someone you know or yours," she said.
While Pace places most of her efforts towards helping other people, she admits she could not have gotten through fighting against her own illness if it wasn't for the love and support of her family, friends and especially the guidance of Father Tom Arnao of Our Lady of Lourdes church in West Islip.
"He supported me from day one," she said. "He told me to take the anger I had with breast cancer and do something good with it."
Her hard work and dedication has helped to establish breast cancer awareness groups all over Long Island and her story has reached far outside of New York and even beyond the U.S. borders to countries like England, Japan and Australia. As much as she has supported her community (her organization sponsors an annual college scholarship to a local prospective student dealing with breast cancer in their family), it has given back and supported her. Along with Congressman Peter King, former Senator Alfonse D'Amato and Congressman Mike Forbes, Pace assisted in establishing the first ever breast cancer pink ribbon stamp. Former Congressman Rick Lazio and current Secretary of State Hilary Clinton have also donated funds to Pace's organization, among many others.
And for her thoughtful and tireless efforts, Pace -who was elected into the Suffolk County Women's Hall of Fame in 2009- was recently honored with a plaque at the newly built Suffolk Women's Wall of Fame in the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge.
"I was very proud and honored but I would be even happier if someone told me what we could do to prevent this disease," she said. "I am not going to stop until I can tell my daughter and my granddaughter what to do so they do not get breast cancer."
To learn more about Pace's organization, please visit her web site here.